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Cancer experts gather to discuss state of clinical trials
Published Wednesday, October 10, 2018
by Staff Reports

RALEIGH – Nearly 150 people attended the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s (ACS CAN) ninth annual Cancer Research Breakfast Monday at the North Carolina Museum of History. The event provided a forum for leaders in industry, advocacy, academia and public policy to discuss the current state of therapeutic clinical trials, and the need to focus on the barriers to patient enrollment and efforts needed to overcome them.

North Carolina’s three NCI-Designated Cancer Centers – UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Duke Cancer Institute and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Comprehensive Cancer – served as the honorary hosts for the breakfast.

“Today’s breakfast is just one of five clinical trial forums being held across the country that are focusing on ACS CAN’s Report, ‘Barriers to Patient Enrollment in Therapeutic Clinical Trials for Cancer,’ ” said Christine Weason, ACS CAN North Carolina government relations director. “We convened key thought leaders and subject matter experts from the cancer community to gain foundational insight to the barriers identified in the report, and to explore potential opportunities and promising practices that may alleviate the barriers patients confront in enrolling and participating in clinical trials.”

Hoping to improve patient enrollment, ACS CAN and 14 other organizations from all sectors of the cancer research community, including patient advocacy groups, provider groups, cancer institutions, and the drug research and development industry, developed a set of consensus recommendations detailed in the report. Examples include making the discussion of specific trial options a more regular part of the doctor-patient treatment decision; increasing funding for trial-support personnel to help patients understand, enroll and manage their trial; and helping patients with added costs that occasionally result from trial participation such as travel, parking and housing.

While many initiatives have been launched to tackle barriers to cancer clinical trial enrollment, they tend to focus on a subset of the overall barriers. For example, patient education and decision making are often the focus of efforts to increase participation, yet other structural and clinical factors like the lack of locally available clinical trials matching a patient’s characteristics or lack of interest on the part of providers to recommend clinical trials as an option for up to 75 percent of their patients.

“Barriers to entry in clinical trials are a real problem. We have conversations daily about the need to make clinical research a standard health care option instead of something that physicians and cancer patients view as a ‘Hail Mary’ care approach.,” said Brendan Early, vice president of clinical development for PRA Health Sciences. “This problem is multifactorial, with varying views. Today’s forum was a very effective opportunity to look at the issue from all sides.”

The objective of cancer research is to generate new knowledge that can be used to save lives and protect quality of life for patients with cancer. Clinical trials are a key step in that process and yet, only a small fraction of patients end up enrolling in a cancer clinical trial because of barriers that make participation difficult or even impossible. As a result, approximately 20 percent of cancer clinical trials fail due to insufficient patient enrollment.

This year, the American Cancer Society estimates that 55,130 people in North Carolina will be diagnosed with cancer and 20,380 will die from the disease. For more information, visit http://www.acscan.org/.



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